Natural gas-fired Calif. plant projects suspended, scrapped

Calpine has asked the California Energy Commission to suspend its review of a 255-megawatt natural gas-fired power plant that was to be built with battery storage capability, citing regulatory uncertainty.

“Since the Mission Rock Energy Center was proposed, California policies and programs relating to grid reliability—particularly local reliability and procurement— have been in transition,” Calpine said in a March 9 letter to the CEC. The battery storage project component would come in at 100 MWh.

Calpine developed the Mission Rock plant near since Santa Paula to potentially help Southern California Edison meet its needs in the Moorpark area near Los Angeles where transmission capacity is limited.

The area is affected by the pending retirement of about 2,000 MW of natural gas-fired power plants that use once-through cooling technology, which the state is phasing out.

In late February, Southern California Edison (SCE) issued a request for proposals for clean energy resources to meet the utility’s needs in the Moorpark area. Eligible resources include demand response, energy efficiency, load shifting, renewables and energy storage. The Mission Rock plant doesn’t meet the RFP’s criteria.

However, pending market developments, such as the California Public Utilities Commission’s look at possible flexible capacity requirements, may make the Mission Rock proposal attractive in the future, according to Calpine. Also, it is unclear if SCE will be able to meet its needs through its RFP, the company said.

“Once these processes advance and provide more market certainty, the applicant will petition the commission to resume or modify the processing of this application,” Calpine said.

The CEC has asked Calpine to clarify how long it wants the commission to suspend its review of the Mission Rock project.

SCE’s RFP for clean energy resources grew out a signal in October that the CEC was going to reject NRG Energy’s 262-MW natural gas-fired Puente power plant, which was proposed to meet the utility’s needs for the Moorpark area.

Two CEC commissioners said they were preparing to recommend that the agency reject the Puente project in Oxnard, California, because it was inconsistent with state laws and its effects couldn’t be adequately offset.

The commissioners said they issued their statement instead of waiting to make a formal recommendation to give SCE time to issue an RFP for clean energy resources.

In August, the California Independent System Operator told the CEC that SCE could meet its needs for the Moorpark area without adding fossil-fueled resources, but potentially at a higher cost.

Meanwhile, GenOn Energy, a bankrupt NRG subsidiary, recently said it planned to shutter three gas-fired power plants in Southern California totaling 2,210 MW.

NRG Energy will retire three gas-fired power plants in Rancho Cucamonga (Etiwanda), Oxnard (Ormond Beach) and Goleta (Ellwood).

“The decision to close these plants aligns with a trend that’s sweeping across California-- gas plants aren’t being built or retiring due to community opposition and the growth of clean energy in the state,” the Sierra Club said in a March 9 news release.